With the rumblings of the Tea Party continuing to make noise in American politics, it may be time to look outward at the rest of the world. While no mass movement of Tea Party protesters appears to be spontaneously taking to the streets of the Western world, signs do point to a small degree of modelling of the American movement.
There are two big examples of modelling. First is Britain. The Telegraph reports:
Activists are hold a rally at next month’s Conservative party conference in Birmingham at which criticism of Coalition policies will be aired.
A British division, launched last year by The Freedom Association, has held events including a “Boston tea party” in Boston, Lincs.
It has joined forces with the Taxpayers’ Alliance pressure group, which is being advised by Freedom Works, a large Washington-based political group that backs Tea Party candidates.
The organisers, who have already attracted thousands of disgruntled British conservatives, are being advised by the US low-tax, libertarian activists…
Raheem Kassam, one of the British tea party organisers, also held talks with US activists at the huge CPAC conference earlier this year…
Simon Richards, director of The Freedom Association, said he was also being assisted by leading activists from Australia and Italy.
Reports of an Australian Tea Party are also starting to emerge.
The Australian T.E.A. Party (an acronym for Taxed Enough Already) will be targeting pre-selections across the country and heavily promotes its links to “our friends” in the United States.
Reluctant spokesman David Goodridge – “just call me the website editor” – says the grassroots movement has no plans to register as a political party, won’t stand candidates and won’t accept politicians as members.
“We’ve been around for a little while but we made a conscious decision not to involve ourselves at the last election – we’re not a political party, we are a political movement, we influence parties that already exist,” he said.
Mr Goodridge says the Australian party has not received US funding – “that would not be appropriate, they don’t want to interfere” – but it is looking to update and adapt US training videos for its own purposes…
Mr Goodridge won’t reveal membership numbers in Australia, saying only that “we have people all over the place” and adding that since the website launched on August 28 he has been in contact with a federal Minister and other MPs.
There are also hints of Tea Party organizations getting off the ground in Holland and Italy.
It is interesting that the Australian and British groups profess to focus on matters of personal freedom and fiscal responsibility. This differs from the US, where social conservatives have made an uneasy truce with the Tea Party.
Nevertheless, one issue that goes unmentioned is immigration. All of the four countries mentioned (Britain, Australia, Holland, and Italy) have had significant tensions involving immigration, illegal or otherwise. Sometimes the line between “Tea Party” and right-wing populism can be blurred.
The article went on to explain that at 82 Le Pen is yielding party leadership [of the National Front] to his daughter, who is “a passionate advocate of its core message: strong French nationalism, relentless Euro-skepticism, and a lot of hard-nosed talk about fighting crime and immigration.” And lest that you think that such culturally conservative and unsavory attitudes simply go hand in hand with a belief in lower taxes and smaller government, the authors point out that
“she’s also a big believer in the state’s ability and obligation to help its people. ‘We feel the state should have the means to intervene,” she says. “We are very attached to public services à la française as a way to limit the inequalities among regions and among the French,’ including ‘access for all to the same level of health care’.”
That combination of nativism and welfare statism seems very different from the mission of the tea party movement. The Tea Party Patriots website, the closest thing to a central focus for tea party activists, lists their values as “Fiscal Responsibility, Limited Government, Free Market.” In fact, I note that writers Tracy McNicoll, Christopher Dickey, and Barbie Nadeau never use the term “tea party” in the body of the article. So maybe we should only blame Newsweek‘s headline writers and front-page editor.
Similarly, it is hard to disentangle the Tea Party from immigration concerns in European states. Despite Eric Dondero’s claims, one must wonder if the newly powerful Dutch Freedom Party with its anti-Islamic platform is an accurate reflection of the Tea Party’s goals. Similarly, Italy’s Northern League seems to cast a shadow over any significant movement in favor of personal freedom. Nevertheless, on other issues both groups sound Tea Partyish, whether it is the Northern League’s ‘fiscal federalism’ or the Freedom Party’s campaign to end smoking bans.
The problem may be that the Tea Party does not have a formal platform. In America there is clearly discord on foreign policy, immigration, and certain other areas over what the Tea Party really means. If the Tea Party has really become an American export, expect its flaws to be transported too.